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Effective software development

Here are several important heuristics for effective software development that help our team create high-quality, maintainable, and efficient software.

Remember, these heuristics are guidelines to help you develop effective software, but they should not be treated as strict rules. Always consider the context and unique requirements of your project when applying these heuristics.

Architecture & Design

  1. Keep it simple (KISS): Always strive for simplicity in design, code, and architecture. Simpler solutions are easier to understand, maintain, and evolve.
  2. Don’t repeat yourself (DRY): Avoid duplication logic, as this can lead to inconsistencies and maintenance challenges. Minimize code duplication by reusing existing code or creating reusable components. This improves maintainability and reduces the risk of introducing bugs.
  3. YAGNI (You Aren’t Gonna Need It): Avoid over-engineering or implementing features that are not currently required. This helps to reduce complexity and focuses on delivering value.
  4. Plan for change: Accept that requirements and technologies will change over time, and design your software to be adaptable and extensible. Note: there is a balance between this point and the preceding one.
  5. Separation of concerns: Break down your software into smaller, more manageable components that each have a single responsibility. This promotes modularity, maintainability, and testability.
  6. Favor composition over inheritance: Inheritance can lead to tight coupling and decreased flexibility. Using composition allows for more modular and maintainable code.
  7. Code for readability: Write code that is easy to read and understand, as this will make it easier for others to maintain and modify.
  8. Refactor regularly: Continuously improve your codebase identifying “code (and design) smells” and by refactoring it to make it more maintainable, efficient, and easier to understand.
  9. Follow established coding standards and best practices: Consistent coding styles and adherence to industry best practices improve readability and maintainability. For Python, we have created and use Abilian DevTools.
  10. Prioritize technical debt management: Regularly address technical debt, like code quality issues or outdated dependencies, to prevent it from hindering project progress.
  11. Use design patterns: Employ (but don’t overuse) proven Design Patterns that can help solve common problems and improve the structure of your code.


  1. Prioritize testing: Implement automated testing, including unit tests, integration tests, and end-to-end tests, to ensure code reliability and reduce bugs.

    • Making code testable usually improves its design, so this point could also have gone into the previous section. See or The Four Elements of Simple Design.
    • Aim for a high test coverage, including unit, integration, and end-to-end tests.
    • Use all the tools that are relevant for you technical and problem domain: doctests, BDD (Cucumber),
    • When programming in Python, prefere
  2. Continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD): Regularly integrate code changes and automate the build, test, and deployment processes to catch issues early and improve software quality.


  1. Code reviews: Conduct regular code reviews to improve code quality, share knowledge, and catch bugs early.
  2. Document your code: Write clear and concise documentation, including comments, to help others understand your code and its purpose.
  3. Use version control: Employ a version control system (e.g., Git) to track changes, collaborate with teammates, and maintain a history of your project.
  4. Learn from failure: Embrace a culture of continuous learning, and analyze failures to improve both the codebase and the development process.
  5. Always communicate with stakeholders: Engage with users, customers, and other stakeholders throughout the development process to ensure that software meets their needs and expectations. See Outcome over output.
  6. Apply agile methodologies: Embrace iterative development, frequent delivery, and continuous improvement through techniques like Scrum, Kanban, or Extreme Programming (XP).


Secure software development is essential to protect sensitive data, maintain user trust, and prevent security breaches. Here are some important heuristics for secure software development:

  1. Adopt a security mindset: Consider security as an integral part of the development process, and prioritize it from the beginning of a project.

  2. Follow the principle of least privilege: Limit the access and permissions of users, applications, and systems to the minimum necessary to perform their tasks.

  3. Validate and sanitize input: Assume all user input is malicious, and validate, sanitize, and encode it to prevent injection attacks and other security vulnerabilities.

  4. Secure data storage and transmission: Use strong encryption to protect sensitive data, both when stored and transmitted between systems.

  5. Implement proper authentication and authorization: Use strong authentication mechanisms, such as multi-factor authentication, and implement granular access control to ensure that only authorized users can access sensitive resources.

  6. Use secure coding practices: Follow best practices for secure coding, such as using parameterized queries to prevent SQL injection and avoiding the use of unsafe functions or APIs.

  7. Regularly update dependencies: Keep software dependencies up-to-date to minimize the risk of known security vulnerabilities.

  8. Conduct security audits and testing: Perform regular security testing, including penetration testing, vulnerability scanning, and code reviews, to identify and remediate potential security issues.

  9. Apply secure development methodologies: Follow secure development methodologies, such as the OWASP Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSDLC) or Microsoft’s Security Development Lifecycle (SDL), to ensure that security is considered at every stage of development.

  10. Implement proper error handling and logging: Use secure error handling techniques to prevent information leaks and ensure that sensitive information is not exposed through error messages. Implement robust logging to facilitate monitoring and incident response.

  11. Use security tools: Employ tools like static application security testing (SAST), dynamic application security testing (DAST), and software composition analysis (SCA) to help identify potential security issues.

  12. Educate and train developers: Provide security training and awareness programs for developers to ensure that they understand the importance of secure development practices and are equipped to apply them.

  13. Plan for incident response: Develop an incident response plan to effectively manage security breaches and minimize their impact.

  14. Encourage a security-conscious culture: Foster a culture of security awareness within the organization, and encourage developers to consider security in every aspect of their work.


Global references

Some of the most influential works on this field include:

  1. “The Mythical Man-Month” by Frederick P. Brooks Jr. (1975): This book discusses the challenges of managing large software projects and provides insights into the human factors that affect productivity and software quality.
  2. “Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction” by Steve McConnell (1993): This comprehensive guide covers best practices and techniques for writing high-quality code, focusing on topics like code organization, design, debugging, and testing.
  3. “Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software” by Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, and John Vlissides (1994): Also known as the “Gang of Four” book, this work introduces 23 classic design patterns and has been widely influential in object-oriented software development.
  4. “Object-Oriented Design Heuristics” by Arthur J. Riel (1996): The book presents a set of practical design heuristics or guidelines that can help developers create well-designed, maintainable, and reusable object-oriented software systems. The book covers various aspects of object-oriented design, including encapsulation, inheritance, polymorphism, and class relationships. It also provides numerous examples and case studies that illustrate the application of these heuristics in real-world software projects.
  5. “Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code” by Martin Fowler (1999): This book provides a comprehensive guide to refactoring techniques, helping developers improve the structure and maintainability of their code without altering its behavior.
  6. “The Pragmatic Programmer: Your Journey to Mastery” by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas (1999): This influential book covers a wide range of topics related to software development, offering practical advice and techniques for writing better code and becoming a more effective programmer.
  7. Extreme Programming Explained - Embrace Change (1999)” by Kent Beck: This book introduces the Extreme Programming (XP) methodology, a popular Agile software development approach that emphasizes close collaboration, iterative development, and continuous improvement.
  8. “Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering” by Robert L. Glass (2002): The book presents 55 “facts” about software engineering, which are evidence-based observations that Glass believes to be essential for understanding the nature of software development. These facts cover a wide range of topics, including project management, estimation, quality, productivity, and maintenance.
  9. Refactoring for Software Design Smells - Managing Technical Debt (2014)” by Girish Suryanarayana, Ganesh Samarthyam, and Tushar Sharma: The book aims to help developers improve the quality and maintainability of their software by providing techniques for refactoring code to eliminate these smells and manage technical debt. The book begins by discussing the concept of technical debt and its impact on software projects. It then introduces 25 design smells, organized into four categories: foundational, creational, structural, and behavioral smells. For each smell, the authors provide detailed descriptions, examples, and explanations of the underlying design issues. The main part of the book focuses on refactoring techniques to address design smells. The authors present over 60 refactoring strategies, accompanied by practical examples and step-by-step guidance. The book also offers insights into the relationship between design smells and software quality attributes, such as performance, robustness, and modifiability.
  10. A Philosophy of Software Design (2018) by John Ousterhout, a book that offers insights and guidance on designing software systems with simplicity, robustness, and maintainability in mind. The book begins by discussing the importance of good software design and the concept of “deep modules,” which are modules that provide simple, high-level abstractions with well-defined interfaces. Ousterhout then delves into various design principles, including:
    1. Choosing the right level of abstraction
    2. Designing for change and flexibility
    3. Encapsulating complexity
    4. Reducing cognitive load for developers
    5. Creating effective comments and documentation

Page last modified: 2023-05-08 01:55:11